Providing a fresh approach to the social history of the Victorian era, this book examines the history and development of the tonic sol-fa sight-singing system, and its impact on British society. Instead of focusing on the popular classical music can, McGuire combines musicology, social history and theology to investigate the perceived power of music within the Victorian era. Through case studies on temperance, missionaries, and women's suffrage, the book traces how John Curwen and his son transformed Sarah Glover's sight-singing tation from a strictly local phemen into an internationally-used system. They built an infrastructure that promoted its use within Great Britain and beyond, to British colonies and other lands experiencing British influence, such as India, South Africa, and especially Madagascar. McGuire demonstrates how tonic sol-fa was believed to be of importance beyond music education - that music could improve the morals of individual singers and listeners, thus transforming society.
Charles Edward McGuire is Associate Professor of Music at Oberlin Conservatory of Music.